Theatre, theSpace @ Surgeons Hall, Venue 53, 15:35 until the 29th August.
The Kitchen Sink, performed by Exeter University Theatre Company, is a far more sentimental play than you might expect from its opening line, “What d’ya think of the nipples?”
The nipples in question belong to Dolly Parton – or rather the sketch of her by the son in the play, who is hoping to use it to get in to ‘that art school in London’. Dolly features prominently throughout the performance, from the whistled ‘9 to 5’ segue between scenes by the actors themselves, to the radio singalong when said son receives the results of his application. Her upbeat tones provide light relief from a drudging storyline: the father’s milk business is failing, and the daughter’s troubled past is made manifest in passive aggression toward her best friend, who in turn is preoccupied by concern for his ailing grandmother. This is a cheery plot, which doesn’t feel entirely unlike a bizarre live episode of Hollyoaks.
The sound effects in the play are occasionally clunky – some audience members were taken aback by a particularly startling ‘kettle’ noise – while the use of whistling from the actors required them to snap in and out of role more quickly than was sometimes natural. However, the whole performance makes creative use of a basic set, so in the first few seconds you forget all about the stacked crates that function as a kitchen.
In many ways The Kitchen Sink is exactly what it says on the tin: a typical domestic tale of a northern family struggling to get by – and in this sense it can sometimes come across a bit like a school drama production. By the time the twee, reconciliatory conclusion rolls around, all hopes that this play will do something different have been dashed. However, this is more the fault of the script than the actors, who do a great job of bringing Tom Wells’ piece to life, and there are some genuinely touching moments in amongst all the Dolly karaoke and milkfloat drama. Although the show does not perhaps deliver on its promise of ‘comedy with a punch’, it is a well-rounded production that allows some really talented actors to shine through.